3 February 2015
Reviewed by James Garden
The Separation, now at Theatre503, is a puzzle. Set on the eve of the Irish divorce referendum of 1995, the play confronts a real world, extremely difficult problem head on—what does divorce mean to the Irish family?
The one-act clearly does not want to answer that question too specifically, but its vision, as a piece, couldn’t be clearer. Its plotting, however, lets down this poignant vision.
Its characters are fully formed—Owen McDonell plays a particularly believable and self-tortured Stephen Hanrahan. His wife, Marion, is wonderfully executed by Carrie Crowley. Their daughter, Gerty, is lovable and flawed and Roxanna Nic Liam does a great job of portraying this confused girl, who really, out of anyone, one feels the worst for.
Susan Stanley plays an excellent Molly, the girl who Stephen makes advances on from the office, and her American accent is well considered—the bumbling about the house when she first arrives to try and make herself “up” for the man who has brought her home is particularly enjoyable and a welcome introduction to the world of the play.
Unfortunately, despite the fully formed characterizations, and the well-executed production by director Simon Evans and his design team, the play doesn’t quite hold up as a text.
One wishes to see these four extremely watchable and empathetic characters in five different scenes than what are presented here. They are strong, deep characters who demand investment, and at present they receive it from the audience, but ultimately the plotting lets them down—the ending, wholly unsatisfactory.
There’s a careful way to leave plots unfinished, but there are just too many open questions left here. One could spend two and a half hours with these characters in another context, with the text posing the exact questions posed by The Separation, and feel far more emotionally satisfied and moved by the result.
Clearly, playwright Richard Molloy has talent, and as a first play, this should be applauded. But, as written, The Separation left one craving far more.